Overcoming Credit Obstacles

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1 Overcoming Credit Obstacles Ever wondered how your credit impacts your overall financial wellness? Let us tell you: It plays a starring role in many of your life s important financial endeavors! Whether you re buying or refinancing a home, renting an apartment, paying for a car, or even seeking a new career, your credit indicates how well you manage repaying debts. Lenders find your credit score to be a key number that helps them calculate the risk they take in lending you money and it s money that may help you reach a financial goal. Read on to get a crash course in credit and how to cope with any obstacles that may arise. CREDIT BASICS How is your credit score generated? Think of your credit score as a report card but instead of showing it to your parents, you ll now display your financial progress to lenders and credit card companies. Your credit score is a calculated number that sums up your credit history and spending behaviors. When lenders or credit card companies look at your score, it gives them an idea of how reliable you are when it comes to paying off debt. Here s how to make heads and tails of your score: 720+ Excellent Credit Lenders might be knocking down your door to offer the lowest interest rate around! Bear in mind that even though you have excellent credit, it s still wise to keep an eye on your progress by getting a report every year Good Credit You re in good financial shape. You may pay slightly more in interest than those with excellent credit Poor Credit To get approval from a lender or credit card company, you ll need to show you re able to effectively pay off debt. Interest rates are also higher in this range Deficient Credit Don t be discouraged if your credit score falls into this category. Your credit score is comprised of several elements: payment history, amounts owed, new credit, variety of credit used, and length of credit history. To learn more, check out the details on each of these categories on MyFICO.com. Ever wonder who s determining your credit score? The number crunchers at the three credit bureaus Experian, Transunion and Equifax take all the elements of your credit history into account to calculate your score. A credit bureau is a company that collects information from various sources and provides consumer credit information on an individual s borrowing and bill-paying habits. This helps lenders assess credit worthiness, the ability to pay back a loan, and can affect the interest rate and other terms of a loan. PAGE 1

2 How do you build credit? It s never too early to start nurturing your credit score, and never too late to rebuild if it s on the low end. Credit card companies and lenders look for payments that are made on time, and for small balances (think $10 20) on your credit card. Once you re able to manage your credit with one card, it s a great idea to diversify your credit. Think of it this way: When you increase your open lines of good-standing credit over an extended period of time, your score will find itself on the rise. And you can look forward to greater opportunities from lenders and credit card companies as your score increases. How can you find out your current credit score? There are two ways to find out your credit score a hard pull or a soft pull. A hard pull is reported to the credit bureaus and is most often used by mortgage or vehicle loan lenders and credit card companies. This type of pull will cause a small drop in your score, which can be easily recovered, and is necessary for obtaining a house or car. The reason for the slight drop in score is obvious; the hard pull signals that you are likely to borrow money at that point, which in turn lowers your credit rating. But don t worry. The slight drop is only temporary assuming you are making all payments on time. And when applying for a mortgage, you can have several lenders pull your credit and it will only appear on your record as one hard pull. This allows you to compare rates without hurting your credit with multiple hard pulls. A soft pull, on the other hand, isn t a signal that you are going to borrow money and doesn t affect your score. It s the normal measurement for financial planning tools or credit monitoring services. Make sense? When buying or refinancing a home, keep in mind that hard and soft credit pulls often display drastically dissimilar scores. The score you receive may be different from one you get from a mortgage lender. Why is your credit score important? Your credit score is one factor in how you re approved for credit cards, mortgages and vehicle loans. Of course, a good credit score has its advantages. Many loans like your mortgage are available with lower interest rates for those with better credit. Don t forget: Many employers also check credit reports, especially when you re in the hiring process. You know it s prudent to closely monitor your spending habits and ability to manage your debt all year, but what about your credit score? Getting a credit report two to four times per year can give you insight into how you re managing your accounts, errors that can hurt your credit, or even if you ve been a victim of identity theft. PAGE 2

3 CREDIT OBSTACLES Why is your credit score low? There are many reasons your credit score can be on the low end, but credit bureaus will typically drop your score for two reasons: untimely bill payment and high credit card balances. Don t fret if your credit s too low being proactive in checking it can help you understand what to change or fix, especially if you foresee making a big purchase soon (like a home or car). And keep in mind, boosting your score is just a few simple steps away! You may want to try obtaining a secured credit card or being added as an authorized user to an account. Here s how a secured card works: Open an account with a company that reports to all three credit bureaus. All you ll need to do is open the card and make a deposit (usually $300) into the account, giving you a secure line of credit. Remember, you ll have to continue making payments on the account to avoid cancellation by the credit card company. What if your credit score is non-existent? Just starting out? There s no better time to start building your credit history! As a general rule to obtain a credit score, you ll need three accounts open for four months. Your credit score s strength will gradually build if you ve kept at least 3 4 accounts in good standing over months. How do you pay off a collections debt and remove it from your report? Ever dealt with a pesky debt collector? You ll know they re no fun to work with. The way to handle paying off a debt is to directly contact the company that holds this debt. Keep in mind that most collections do not remain with the initial company, so you ll need to either call the original creditor or consult your credit report for the new company s information. What if you see incorrect information on your credit report? Don t panic! Inaccuracies on credit reports occur frequently, but most of them if legitimate are minor enough to not skew your score. Bear in mind that inaccuracies may arise if you re dealing with a divorce and settling debt with your former spouse, as well as if you agree to co-sign on a loan. And let s not forget another common source of inaccurate credit report information identity theft. Be sure to immediately file a police report if you believe you re a victim of identity theft, and check out these tips to help you recover from the crime from our friends at Quizzle. And while you may be apt to, don t be so quick to point a finger if you spot an inaccuracy. Your own mistakes like late payments, misreported or misspelled names (don t forget to include any suffixes!), old addresses, and wrong Social Security numbers can impact your score negatively. How does cosigning on a spouse s credit card or loan affect my credit? When you take responsibility as a cosigner on a loan or credit card, you ll be equally accountable if debt is not sufficiently paid by the primary borrower. In the event of a divorce, it s commonplace for the debts to be split between both parties yet, this varies per each couple s situation. If you and a spouse make a legal agreement with a credit card company prior to divorcing, you are both equally responsible for making payments. If the other party is the primary account holder but not making the payments, your credit score may in turn be affected negatively if you haven t yet been removed from the account. When you do take action to remove yourself from the accounts in the event of a divorce, remember that your credit report may still reflect any previous unsettled debt unless your spouse is able to qualify on their own. PAGE 3

4 Will closing a credit card help my score? Unfortunately, no. Closing a credit card may actually hurt your credit if your open lines are limited, since bureaus look for properly managed open debt. If you have a great amount of established credit with a long-standing, clean credit history, closing a credit card will likely not distort your scores. Keep in mind that it s not just the amount of open credit you have, but how you handle that credit. You won t lose points for having ten open cards instead of three just be sure to keep balances low and pay bills on time! Should you use cash or debit cards instead of credit cards? Buying something? A quick swipe of a credit card might seem like the simplest option, but opting for cash, a debit card, or prepaid card is often a good choice when trying to manage your spending. However, when you re staying on top of your financial game and looking to improve your credit score, you ll want to use your credit card, make timely payments, and your score will rise. Since debit-style cards don t report to the credit bureaus, your good payment history and money management won t show up in your report. The bottom line is that you should balance your purchases between cash/debit and credit to help your credit score. A note on mortgages and debit cards: Many lenders do check your accounts and history for these cards. Be cautious of over drafting; it may affect your interest rate or available options for home loans. How do foreclosures and short sales affect my credit score? First things first, let s tackle the difference between a foreclosure and short sale. A foreclosure occurs when a homeowner stops making payments, forcing the bank to seize the property and hold any liable parties responsible for a fraction or all of what is owed. In contrast, a short sale is an agreement between the seller and the mortgage company to sell the home for less than what is owed. Most often, sellers must include the total loss as income and will be required to pay taxes on it. While both situations will ultimately affect your credit score, consider a short sale before deciding on a foreclosure. A short sale will hurt your credit, but a foreclosure can do significant damage to it. What should I do following a foreclosure or short sale? Your credit is vulnerable during this time, but staying on top of your finances is the best way to give it a needed boost. In the year following the foreclosure or short sale, you ll want to keep at least four open trade lines (like car notes and credit cards) all with clean histories. Trade lines not an option? Try a secured credit card to get started. PAGE 4

5 How does bankruptcy affect my credit score? Bankruptcy is a court-sanctioned option that allows the reduction or elimination of debt for those who are unable to afford their payments. First, when considering a bankruptcy, get a lawyer. That is absolutely recommended to minimize the damage a bankruptcy can do to your credit. Second, bankruptcy will hurt your credit and affect if and when you ll qualify for a mortgage. To make a long story short, after your bankruptcy is discharged, you have to prove yourself all over again. You ll need to get some type of new credit established after the fact. Whether it s a car loan, a bank loan, a credit card, or a student loan whatever it may be, it s imperative that you show lenders, going forward, that you ve done a good job of managing your credit. After the bankruptcy is discharged, in some cases you d likely have to wait at least 2 years before you d be able to get new financing for a mortgage whether it s purchasing or refinancing. And in some limited cases, we could possibly get you approved after one year (FHA loans and Chapter 13 bankruptcy only). It depends on what kind of credit you have, what kind of payment history you have, and how many pieces of credit you have but generally speaking, you d have to wait at least 2 years. The best thing to do is to get some kind of new credit established after the bankruptcy, and the most important thing is that you get your payments made on time after the bankruptcy. This will minimize the negative effects of a bankruptcy on your credit score and enhance your ability to qualify for a mortgage. What s next? If you want to make staying on top of your financial wellness easier than ever, our friends at Quizzle have an array of great services to take the guesswork out of your credit report and overall fiscal health. We ve linked them below. When it comes to credit, the more you know, the better off you are. You re now armed and ready to tackle credit obstacles you might face in the future. And don t forget, Quicken Loans is more than just mortgages; we re your financial partner in keeping you money savvy! Handy credit resources from Quizzle: Free Credit Report Debt Management Program Improvement Program Credit Monitoring Identity Theft Protection PAGE 5

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